Calling morbid obesity an economic drain on the state, Senator Jimmy Jeffress (D-Crossett) proposed the bill which would provide coverage to state employees and state teachers.
"We think in a short time there will be many savings to be found," said Jeffress following the vote. "It won't be a cost to the system, that ultimately it will be a cost-savings to the system simply because of reduced costs of pharmacy care for diabetes, blood pressure, for any number of things of that sort."
The only no vote came from Senator Cecile Bledsoe (R-Rogers) who cited cost as a concern.
The plan will cost an estimated $14.5 million over three years, which equals roughly 1% of the insurance plan cost.
Prior to the committee vote, Jeffress agreed to amend the bill to include caps on coverage and a pre-authorization process to ensure the right people are getting the treatment. He promised fellow lawmakers the bill would be amended in time for a full Senate vote.
Bledsoe said she wanted to see the changes in writing first.
"If the caps are on the time and on the monetary advantage to this and also possibly to the number of people that can have this, I might be willing to vote yes," Bledsoe explained.
Jeffress said he believes private insurance companies will offer coverage for treatment of morbid obesity after seeing the success of the pilot program.
"We're just giving them the kick-start to do something that I think will ultimately be accepted by everybody," Jeffress said.
The bill will now be voted on by the full Senate.